My sister comes home from in patient rehab today. She has been gone a little over a month, so she left before I got sober. My feelings are all mixed up about my sister, and I’m not sure how to handle her coming back into my life. I am guarded, I am scared, I am angry, and I am also full of love and understanding.
My sister is 3.5 years younger than me, and from the beginning we were always very different. I was driven, competitive, hard working. She was a dreamer, and always trying to catch up to me, but what she never realized is that she should not have been trying to catch up to me, she should have been running her own race. But I don’t think my sister ever found her own identity, She relied on other people to do that for her, and when she couldn’t live up to who she wasn’t she created a fantasy world in her head where she should could be anything she wanted to be. And in this world she created in her mind she was finally enough. I realized this when I realized my sister was not just an alcoholic, she was also mentally ill.
Neither of my parents graduated from high school. My dad was the bread winner, my mom stayed home, took care of the house and us girls. My mom did not have any friends, was mostly unhappy, and put the burden of her lack of friends squarely on my sister’s and my shoulders. It was a heavy burden to carry as little girls. We would constantly hear my mom talk about all the things that were wrong with my father, how we never pitched in enough around the house, how my father rarely took her out, how she could never have nice things, and how hard she had to work to make our house a home. I was always fearful my mom would just pick up and leave because of her sadness, and my sensitive sister took all of this in her body, and it made her sick inside, and readily destroyed her already fragile self image.
There was a lot of drinking my parents did together, usually at home. My mom was an angry drunk, and my dad knew this so he very rarely took her out because all of us knew how the night would end. When drunk my mom lashed out at whoever was in her path, and most of the time it was me with my head strong demeanor, and constantly thinking I knew better than my parents because those two just weren’t getting it. I learned that things were a little nuts in my house by spending the night at my friends’ houses, where I would relish in the calm “normal” family atmosphere. I would absorb these families and they would live inside me amidst the craziness and shame of my own home.
I particularly remember my mom and dad coming home after a night of heavy drinking. They came in, took off their shoes, and left them all over the kitchen. My sister stayed in her bedroom with her sensitive soul cowering under her covers. I remember picking up the shoes, trying to organize them nicely by the door because I was scared, and trying to be helpful. But my mom in her drunken stupor saw that as a sign that I was trying to take over, to make her look like a bad housekeeper, wife, mother. So she lashed out at me, screaming to leave her house alone, that SHE would be the one to put things away around here. I think she slapped me and then my father stepped in, called her a slew of names. I remember jumping up on the kitchen counter, sitting by the microwave and kicking my legs screaming, just screaming, letting it all out. My dad tried to make my mom go to bed, but she kept stumbling around the house, trying to tear me apart. My dad came over to try and settle me down, but I was letting my rawness come out, and there was no stopping me. And then there’s my sister. Slowly deteriorating as she lay listening to the insanity, with her sensitive heart beating in her chest, and her mind slowly breaking.
I was kind to my sister when we became adults, and she became a desperate alcoholic. I took her to the hospital repeatedly to detox, holding her tightly and giving words of comfort and encouragement. I found her the first in patient rehab she went to and took her there myself, and when I left her there I left a piece of myself with her. I have taken her daughter in over and over when my sister could no longer care for her. But I was not equipped to handle the years of lying, of manipulation, her lack of effort into getting better, so my heart grew cold, and full of judgment. My relationship with my mother grew distant as my sister told lies to my mother that she believed, and the two of them together rallied against me when I did not believe these strange lies my sister was telling.
And now I myself am in recovery and I have learned so much. I wonder how I’ve changed, and how this change is going to help me handle the return of my sister. I used to hate being alone because all the self loathing and negative talk that would creep in and consume me. Most of that is gone now through sobriety, and I have learned how to sit with myself calmly and peacefully. This has taught me how to sit with others, to just simply be present and to give of myself in a different way. I pray I can do this for my sister, and to let all the judgment disappear. I hope I can slowly let her back into my life, and that I can be a source of comfort for her, and not somebody that is disgusted by her. I hope I’m able to give her support, and if some of her old behaviors come back that I can sit through them, hold no expectations, and to simply let her find her way. I pray that she is learning that she is enough just as she is, and I pray that I can help her in ways I haven’t before, and I pray this time will be different.
Happy Sober Wednesday!